Where are interest rates headed in 2019?
The Bank of Canada has raised interest rates five times since July 2017. As of the Oct. 24 announcement, the overnight lending rate is 1.75 per cent and prime at commercial banks is 3.95 per cent.
Higher rates means money is getting more expensive to borrow and if you have a variable mortgage rate your monthly payments have gone up.
In its latest announcement the Bank of Canada indicated the various reasons they raised rates. This included the finalized trade agreement that replaces NAFTA called the United States Mexico Canada Agreement or USMCA.
In its press release after the announcement the Bank states that the USMCA agreement will help “reduce trade policy uncertainty in North America, which has been an important curb on business confidence and investment.” The trade agreement was the biggest roadblock for the Bank to raise rates. This was evident when they held rates steady for the several past announcements while the U.S. Federal Reserve continued to hike its benchmark rate. Although not always the case, in most instances, if the Fed raises rates, Canada does as well.
The Bank also points to a solid global economic outlook as a reason to hike rates. Here at home it says “The Canadian economy continues to operate close to its potential and the composition of growth is more balanced… Real GDP is projected to grow by 2.1 per cent this year and next before slowing to 1.9 per cent in 2020.”
After the announcement, Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that the BoC statement shows, “Policymakers are clearly upbeat on the outlook, and assuming the economy doesn’t face any big speed bumps, expect rates to continue to push higher at least through early 2019.”
BMO economics predicts three rates hikes in 2019. In January, April and July.
So as rates are expected to rise, what costs can Canadians expect to go up?
Anyone with a variable mortgage rate or any loan with a floating rate, like a line of credit, is already seeing their costs rise. Commercial banks usually hike rates as soon as the Central Bank does. If you have a variable rate mortgage on your condominium, you may want to inquire about fixing your rate today. If you’re worried about your affordability, by fixing your rate you will know how much your payments will be for the remainder of the term.
One of the positives of a higher rates is we get better return on the money we’re putting away. This includes money we have in our savings account. Fixed income rates will rise as well and banks are able to offer a higher rate of return on any money you invest with them.
A rate hike almost always means our currency gets stronger. This can be great for Canadians travelling abroad as you get more money during currency exchange. But a stronger dollar can spell trouble for companies trying to export their goods and services. The stronger dollar makes it more expensive for any foreign buyer.
Life could cost thousands more
A report by Environics Analytics released after the October rate hike reveals in the long run the interest rate hike could cost Canadians thousands. They say, so far, the effects of higher rates has been limited to short-term debt and variable rate debt. But when fixed rate debt starts to catch up life will get more expensive. They say “the true long-term effect of these interest rate hikes will be approximately $2,516 a year per household or 5.0 per cent of discretionary income.”
The sense from economists is interest rates are expected to rise going into 2019. If you’re concerned you need to stress test your finances, calculate how much your debt would cost if rates were 2 or 3 percentage points higher. If you find that might be unaffordable make the changes now to prepare for what seems to be inevitable.
Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a journalist and personal finance expert. She is HPG’s Finance Editor. She regularly appears on CBC Radio and TV. She is a contributor on CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She has a BA from York University, received her post graduate journalism diploma from Humber College and has completed the CSC. Follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney